The winds moaned loudly as they swept across the heavy forest in the dead of winter. They moaned so terrible, it was as though the earth was in pain by the endless cold. It swept up the unsettled snow. The wind currents were visible by the whiteness of the snowflakes.
The tall leaf-less birch trees were bending by the force of the strong winds of the north. Many trees lost their branches by the mere wind and were buried by the coldest winter in years. Small shrubs would have been torn from their roots if they weren't so nicely buried in the many inches of packed snow in late November.
There was a crunching sound in the air as heavy boots were stepping onto the snow. A shell was laid into the barrel and loaded it into the chamber of the rifle. The scope's lens had fogged up a long time ago. A man, a hunter treaded through the snow. He was dressed for warmth because he knew it would be a long day of hunting in such cold weather.
A scratched up tree caught his eye as he stopped to take a closer look. As he came close, it was apparent that the elk he been tracking since morning scratched up this pine tree with its antlers. They were made today. He knew he was getting closer. It must have been heading to the river for water. The hunter knew the river was only two hours away.
So, he kept moving through this harsh weather. His gloves had lost warmth hours ago. They were just frozen cloth around his trembling fingers. His jacket had froze to, any movement, the jacket's material would crackle. He had a heavy scarf covering his face as well as goggles to cover his eyes from the freezing air. His hair, jet black was frozen stiff with snowflakes all around his hair.
Minutes later, there was something almost covered in snow. He knelt down to see what it was. It was the elk's droppings. He quickly strapped his rifle on his back and pulled off his glove. He had his hand very close to the tard. Excitement overtook him as his heart started pumping fast. It was still warm, but barely. The elk was very close.
He took the binoculars hanging from his neck and glanced through them into the distance. His line of sight went down the long trail to the river. And he saw the elk through his binoculars. He cracked a small grin as he unstrapped his rifle and looked down the scope. He wiped away the fog and alittle ice.
He saw the elk through the scope of his rifle. He began to line up the crosshairs perfectly. He knew it was half a kilometer way. Wind and distance wouldn't matter for this shot. He pulled the trigger. There was a long bang ringing through the air. He watched through the scope. A split-second later, there was a splatter of blood and the elk dropped.
Before he knew it, he was standing over his trophy. A strong wind brought chills up his spine. His determination and perseverance were no longer needed and he could finally let go to feel the chilling winds he ignored for so long. His patience was rewarded with the sight of the elk's lifeless eyes and the snow stained with blood.
Without thinking he started back without the dead elk. He had a sled some miles back. He left it because he got tired pulling it for nothing. Now it would come of use, to put his fresh kill atop it and pull it home. As he walked he made markings on the dead birch trees in order to find his way back.
After two hours of walking, he found his sled with his dead elk laying on it. He slipped off his gloves. They dropped in the snow. He pulled out his hunting knife. He knelt down and began skinning the elk. He started at genitals and cut all the way up to it's mouth.
As he cut, words of his old man, his father kept playing through his mind. "Watch you don't drop a single hair of fur on the bare meat," his father would always say. He remembered how angry his old man would also get if you didn't listen. He still remembered the bruises inflicted upon him by his wrathful father. He had to learn the hard way, but it stuck with him to this day.
He was now heading back to his house. His sled dragged behind him. The elk was skinned so perfectly. The old man would be proud. His home was some miles southeast. It was down by the moutain. He knew this wild forest well. Only thing he feared were wild bears and cougars that roamed these lands. Although, it was only a matter of time till he reached his house.
The day was done as the land was becoming a light blue. It was getting darker by each passing hour. He was now outside in his backyard. He pulled the sled close to his shed. He quickly took his frozen gloves off as he dug in his pockets for the keys for the shed. A minute later he was unlocking the shed, pulling the doors wide open.
He dragged the sled inside. He caught a string and gave it a tug and a bulb flicked on. In the shed, it was very dark and cold. There was lots of tools, wrenches, and buckets of nails all forming a cluttered mess. He quickly readied a hook from the rafters for the dead elk to hang till it was done bleeding out. He stood over the bleedy body, lent down and with all his strength picked it up. He hoisted it just high enough for the hook to catch it. It hooked on and he could breath easily.
He stepped outside and locked up the shed. He heard the backdoor of his house open up. "You know you coulda taken the ski-doo," came the nagging voice from the back porch. His face went flush. "Paul, why didn't take your younger brother with you? You know, he loves hunting."
With the shed locked, he started on to the back porch. " I know, mom," he replied as he met her glance with his own. "It does scare the animals away and he's not old enough to work a rifle" He walked up the steps and stood right next to his mother. He could hear faint coughing from upstairs in the house. "He's not getting better, is he?"
His mother slowly grew sad. "He was in bed all day," she said, sadly. "He's coughing terribly, running a high ferver. Even with the medicine the doctor gave him. I don't know what to do…"
Paul knew his old man might leave him, done in by a flu. Mom didn't want to say it. But they all feared the worst. The least affected by it was little Francis Jr. who was only 6 years old. The old man and little Francis had little time to bond. But Paul's little brother shares in all his old man's passions.
They finally stepped inside the warm house. The backdoor brought them into the kitchen where the mother continued her cooking for a late supper. Paul was fast on his way to the basement and dropped his bloody, frozen, and wet clothes before the washer for laundry. He stripped down to a t-shirt and jean pants. His hands were still feeling the hours out in the bush as he walked back up the stairs.
"Supper is almost ready," his mom announced.
Paul kept walking as if, he didn't hear her. He was heading upstairs to his room to get a dry pair of socks. He walked passed the hallway and stepped into his room. There were many posters covering the bare white wall. The posters were of dozen rock and heavy metal bands. In front of his tv was little Francis playing Paul's old video game console.
He pulled open a draw in his dresser and rummaged through his folded shirts and pants'. "Still trying to beat Mario, eh?" He asked. He found a pair of socks and seat down on his bed to slide them on.
"I gotten to the last world," Francis said, with his attention squarely on the tv screen as his fingers mashed buttons. "But these giant hairy things keep killing me." After a long pause and struggling through the video game level, Francis remembered. "Oh, Kimberley came by today looking for you, but you weren't home."
"Yeah? She say anything?" Paul asked.
"Nope, just wanted to talk to you," he answered.
Paul could only guess what it was they were suppose to talk back. He let out a sigh. He knew what Kimberley wanted to talk about. He was thinking about calling her, though he was very reluctant. He finally got up after much deliberation and decided to give her a call. He went down stairs into the living room. He sank into the couch and took the phone and started dialing her number.
It rang for a good while before someone answered. "Why! Hello, Mr. Wellers," Kimberley greeted very sarcastically, masking her obvious anger for her boyfriend. "So nice of you to finally give me a call!"
"Kimberley, don't give me that shit," he replied. "Now what is it you wanted to talk to me about?"
"You know what!" she answered. "You been home for a good three weeks and I had to find out from my mother."
"Kimberley, shut up, please" he retorted. "You are not giving me shit over this. I know why you're never around to answer my calls. I know you been messing around with Steve Peters. Don't even try and cover it up."
"How can you say such a thing?" she asked. "Steve is so ugly."
"Yeah, its easy when you're drunk and can't wait till I get into the town," Paul answered. "You damn whore, bye."
He rung him with the phone still in his hands. Paul sat there with his anger in full flight. He was ready to throw the phone the hardest he can across the room. But after a minute of defusing, he relinquished his anger and placed the phone back in its charger and went back up stairs to find his brother still fully emerged in Mario. There was faint sounds of a song playing on his cd player. It was Black Dog by Led Zeppelin playing on his cd player. It drew a smile from Paul.
"Francis," Paul called. "We're going shooting tomorrow."
The video game was immediately set on pause and Francis looked back. "Really?" he asked with high hopes.
Paul smiled. "Yes," he answered.
A moment later, they heard a call from downstair. "Supper is ready!" she called.
Supper was quiet. They all sat at the table. They had meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Little Francis would always impress mom with his good manners. She was so happy, he thought. As supper ended, Paul got up and put his plate in the sink. He opened the fridge and dug in the very bottom. He got himself a cold beer and went into the guest room.
It was furnished with two big couches facing each other with a table in between with one reclining chair facing the fireplace. The lights were dim as mom and Francis were in bed. Paul sat in the recliner, or as Francis knew it as "the Man's Chair." Paul sat there and drank his beer. He let his mind wander about his entire life. From his early childhood, his teenage years, and now.
His ever wandering mind thought about the good times he spent hunting with his old man. In his teenage years, hockey really became serious in high school. He mused about the fake friends, all the naïve girls, and responsibility of being captain of the team. Dad was so proud, he thought. A bad memory, the passing of old grandpa. Paul smiled as he remembered how passionate grandpa was about hockey, like any grandpa.
He shook his beer can alittle to see how much was left. There wasn't much left. Just as he was about to get up to grab another beer. He felt a slight cold sensation on his left shoulder. He turned to look it was dad… handing his oldest son a beer. Paul turned to look up. Dad didn't look too good. Wrapped up in a blanket, he was sweaty, bloodshot eyes, and was looking very pale. He was coughing every now and then.
"Dad, You look like shit," Paul said with a grin.
Old man Francis Wellers coughed. "Hey! Watch that smart mouth," he retorted, trying to be serious as a smiled came to the surface.
It only drew a faint smile from Paul and Francis. Paul popped open his second beer and took a shot. Francis had his own and drank a little. For the longest time, the father and son sat and drank without saying a word. The old man continued to cough and sweat. He was terribly sick and he shouldn't be out of bed, but Paul knew, the old was stubborn and wouldn't listen.
Paul sat up and walked around the guestroom to look at all the old photos of his great great grandfathers, some even going back to the late 1900's. All of the photos were taken of his grandfathers in war times. There were also ones of grandfather Leonard and Francis when he was a young teen and they're standing with a dead moose they had just dropped.
"The Wellers were all brave and courageous men, my son," he explained. "You come from a long line of brave soldiers and excellent hunters. It's the native blood in you."
"Dad, don't start with that native blood nonsense," Paul said with a surge of anger. "All those natives around here are nothing but alcoholics and pathetic potheads."
"Even so, it's the reason why your a good hunter," he retorted. "But your shooting, that's another story."
As the old Francis finished, him and Paul shared a good laugh. Paul finally took his last shot from his beer can and headed to the fridge to grab two more. He returned to sit with his dad, handed him his second beer as Paul was on his third, sitting in the recliner. And sat and drank for a long time in silence.
"Yeah, I gotta leave at the 1st of December," Paul broke the silence. "Holidays are nearing an end and I'll be meeting my brothers-in-arms for the first time. Bootcamp is over. We're going to the frontlines."
"Boy, you damn better not miss your mark when you shoot," Old Francis replied in a serious tone.